How award-winning comic artist Colleen Doran was inspired by a royal.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in a small city in the American south. I spent a lot of time wandering in the woods and being around animals, working at a vet from childhood, and working on peaceful farmland, in a time of political and social turmoil. I was in my first race riot when I was about six. Felons would show up at our house. It was interesting.
What, outside of art, has most influenced your artwork?
The countryside. Found a bunch of sketches in my files going back to when I was around ten. They’re all studies of birds and plants.
You’re a child, you see a painting or drawing that changes everything… what are you looking at?
Hal Foster’s Prince Valiant strips in the Sunday newspaper. I couldn’t believe how beautifully drawn they were. Even when I was a little kid I was attracted to naturalism over cartoony art.
What was your next step in art?
I saw Sleeping Beauty and thought how wonderful it would be to be a Disney animator. I won some contests when I was a little girl, but the school teachers could be very obstructive. Every time you drew something or wrote something, they wanted to know how you faked it, or copied it. Anything out of the ordinary must be a trick.
My parents were very supportive though, and bought me The Art of Walt Disney, and real art paper. We didn’t have a lot of money, so that was a stretch for them. I thought I might be a doctor, because it didn’t really click with me that people made art for a living. But when I got sick at age 12, a family friend gave me a big box of comic books. I’d seen comic books before, but never had the money to buy them. Now I had a few hundred of them! I then decided to become a cartoonist.
Does one person stand out as being helpful during your early years?
When I was a kid I met artist Frank Kelly Freas at a sci-fi convention. A Big Name Fan Artist was dissing me, and told Kelly not to waste his time with me, but Kelly blew him off. Later Kelly asked me to visit him at his studio and visit. I got to work there and spend a lot of time with him. When his wife died, I took care of him. He gave me a lot of art supplies and reference.
How much does graphic design play a part in your comic art?
I think of the storytelling first, not design. Maybe that’s not a good thing, and I try to study design more these days, but I’m always thinking first in terms of what does the picture convey, in terms of the story.
What comic character that you’ve painted do you most identify with?
I don’t know if I identify with anyone I paint. I try not to project myself on to characters who aren’t me. I try to make them individuals and not just my ego projections. I identify with a character I write, though, but he’s not an ego projection either, I hope.
What gripes do you have about the comics industry right now?
It’s still pretty exploitative in many ways, and it can be harsh. There’s a lot of talk about creator rights, but in some cases it’s just a marketing tool. It’s hard for beginners to tell the difference and I worry for them.
Why is it still the best place to work?
I don’t know that it is, it’s just that I want to make comics, and that’s why I’m here.
I was in my first race riot when I was about six. Felons would show up at our house
TROLL BRIDGE FILES “Art from Neil Gaiman’s Troll Bridge, published by Dark Horse Comics. I did this in pencil, then used digital colours, on handmade paper with an oil emulsion.” Lost Souls 1-2 “From The Book of Lost Souls by J Michael Straczynski. It’s a pen and ink piece.” A DISTANT SOIL “I did this in pen and ink, and created the lettering by hand on Bristol board.”